10 Good Habits for a Better Budget and a Better You
The saying goes that habits are like a big, cozy bed—easy to get into, but hard to get out of. Our best intentions often get pushed aside by convenience or comfort when we try to break bad habits or form new ones—which can leave us feeling discouraged or even defeated. The bad news is we all develop bad habits over time, but the good news is we can develop new, healthy ones!
Whether you’re hoping to eat better, exercise more, spend less, or make the most of your money, our quick tips will challenge you to start forming those good habits now. Plus, we’ve included 10 good habits you might want to develop for your life and your money.
Quick Tips for Forming Good Habits
For the sake of these quick tips, let’s use regular exercise as an example of the habit we’d like to form.
Start small. Maybe don’t commit to working out everyday for the rest of your life just yet. Instead, choose a habit that’s challenging but doable. For example, don’t feel like you have to train for a triathlon right out of the gate. Instead, plan to run a mile or two a few times a week.
Be specific. You might decide to visit the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings before heading to the work. Or if yoga is your thing, commit to classes three days a week and pick specific times you will show up.
Aim for acting involuntarily. The night before your workout day, lay your gym clothes on the dresser and pack a bag with all the essentials you’ll need to shower and change after your workout. Or always have a bag packed in your car for your after-work yoga session.
Real habits look like second-nature responses: Imagine one day not even having to think about going to the gym simply because it’s what you always do!
10 Good Habits to Start Now
Here at EveryDollar we’re all about helping you win with money. So, of course, we’ll take a look at three big budget-related habits. But first, let’s talk about some general habits that could improve your life, and surprisingly, your bank account.
Good Habits for a Well-Rounded Life
1. Get solid sleep.
In her book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin calls sleep a foundational habit. Makes sense, right? Wake up refreshed and you feel ready to take on the world. We know this. That’s why getting a good seven or eight hours is so important!
How the habit of sleep improves your finances: Good sleep boosts your ability to concentrate, take on new information and stay calm under pressure. It’s no wonder that lack of sleep among the U.S. working population is costing the economy up to $411 billion a year. Bottom line: more sleep equals more money.¹
Starter goal: Give yourself an earlier bedtime and stick to it.
2. Keep an orderly home.
Professional organizer Clea Shearer of The Home Edit offers the a great reason to make this habit a top priority: “Of course our kids destroy [the house], but if you put simple systems in place, you can get it back to perfection in about ten minutes.”² Works for roommates, spouses and dogs, too. Need we say more?
How the habit of organization improves your finances: Have you ever needed an item, but couldn’t find it among household clutter, so you bought a new one? It happens to all of us. Having a place for everything (and less “stuff” in general) means spending less money on things you already have or don’t need. Plus, an orderly home invites you to relax and enjoy your space, meaning you’ll stay home more and go out less—where you’ll inevitably spend money.
Starter goal: Identify the problem areas in your home and look for solutions to clear clutter.
3. Check in weekly.
Set aside twenty minutes each week for a business meeting. Sit down with a pen and paper—and your spouse if you have one—to see how things are going. Identify unmet needs, relive happy moments, check your budget, and consider the days ahead.
How the habit of checking in improves your finances: With a regular check-in, you’ve got every reason to give your budget a glance and make adjustments as needed which means you won’t spend money you don’t have.
Starter goal: Put a weekly check-in on your calendar right now!
4. Plan and prep your meals.
A good day is when you know what you’re eating for dinner before 5:00 p.m. Food Network’s Ree Drummond says you can take that afternoon relief to the next level by also preparing individual ingredients or even complete meals ahead of time—without cramming your freezer full of casseroles.³ Chop veggies, grill chicken, cook ground meat, or work through the first few steps in a recipe. Then store the items in your fridge or freezer where they’ll stay till you need them.
How the habit of planning and prepping your meals improves your finances: Deciding what you’ll eat for the week or the month before you visit the grocery store cuts down on overbuying. And simplifying your weeknights with near-ready meals means you’ll be less tempted to eat out or grab fast food.
Starter goal: Write out meal ideas for next week and make a grocery list based on your plan.
5. Monitor media consumption.
In our world of endless media, we need to give our brains regular breaks from what others are doing and saying. Take time to look inward and consider things like: What do I like to do for fun? What am I good at? What can I make with my own two hands? How can I share my strengths and interests with someone else? Act on your answers!
How the habit of monitoring consumption improves your finances: Learn to create more than you consume and you might have a budding side business on your hands.
Starter goal:Pick one night this week to turn off the TV, set your phone aside, and think your own thoughts.
6. Focus on healthy relationships.
If you want to set yourself up for success in any area of life take a look at your friends. Yep, your parents were right! The people you choose to spend time with matter. In the book Scary Close, Donald Miller explains it this way: “Healthy relationships happen best between healthy people.” Seek out friends who lift you up and spur you on toward greatness—and be sure you do the same for them.
How the habit of forming healthy relationships improves your finances: Good friends offer loads of encouragement—and zero guilt trips—when you’re reaching for your money goals. You’ll won’t feel the need to impress this type of friend. And they should understand how important your money goals are and not encourage you to bust your budget.
Starter goal: Contact a friend that encourages and challenges you and invite them over for dinner or coffee.
7. Think about—and act on—the future.
All too often we put our energy and resources toward what’s urgent while completely overlooking what’s important. For many of us, that means we think only about getting through today and have no time left for dreaming of tomorrow. Thinking about the future is fun and creates special bonds among spouses, family and friends. Acting on those thoughts about the future gives you a sense of control over your life’s story.
How the habit of thinking about the future improves your finances: Planning for the future provides the information you need to set up funds in your EveryDollar budget and to save for your own retirement and your kids’ college tuition.
Starter goal: Schedule a date with your spouse, a family member, or a close friend to dream about the next year or decade.
Good Habits to Make the Most of Your Money
1. Stick to your budget.
Creating a budget each month is the first step to sticking to it. But the big money wins only come if you follow through. When you’re tempted to spend above and beyond your set amount for a certain category in EveryDollar, try a little trick: Pretend it’s tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Then ask yourself, did blowing my budget help me or hurt me?
Also, remember that the person in charge of your budget is you. So yes, you should stick to your budget, but you’re also the one who created it—and the one who can make adjustments each month as needed.
2. Track your spending.
Sticking to a budget without tracking your spending is like trying to run a race with your eyes closed. You might make it to the finish line, but you’ll do a lot of guessing and bumping into problems along the way.
Whenever you make a purchase, note the amount in your budget. Then, when you head to the grocery store, you can quickly and easily see how much you have left to spend. With EveryDollar Plus, your transactions show up automatically, and you just swipe to assign purchases to a budget category.
3. Follow the Baby Steps.
Money expert Dave Ramsey says, “If you want to live like no one else, you have to live like no one else.” There are no truer words when it comes to reaching your financials goals. We make sacrifices now in order to reap rewards later. That’s why you should give your efforts a focal point by working through the Baby Steps. Determine where you are in the Baby Steps and build that step into your EveryDollar budget. Now get after it!
What good habits are you developing in your own life? Do you want to give any of our suggested habits a try? If so, remember to keep it simple when forming a new habit—start small and don’t overcomplicate it! You’ve got this!